All posts tagged: first year blogger

NON-FICTION-NOW: My First Writer’s Conference

Am I cheating on my genre? Will my fiction be jealous?  Every time a writer is mentioned during the day, I open a window. At night, before sleeping, I need to close them. My browser is rebelling. Leaves are turning red. That rainbow-pinwheel-ball from hell spins like a hurricane. No more t-shirts at night. Winter is scratching at the window. Layers and layers; Mary Karr, George Saunders, Lori Ostlund, Geoff Dyer, Halidór Laxness, Wells Towers, Angela Flornoy, Betsy Lerner, Eudora Welty, Lorrie Moore, Barry Gifford—then BOOM… my browser goes down. I can’t afford a new computer. Perhaps a used hard-drive. Our program co-sponsored NonFictionNow in Flagstaff Arizona, hosted at Northern Arizona University. We got to attend, costs to be reimbursed. Thanks UNM. Flagstaff. What a town. NAU. What a conference. What an oasis of intellect. As I have never been to any conference of any type before, I have always tried to avoid hotel meeting rooms. I made a few rookie mistakes, like overdosing on panels and not researching the keynotes prior. (Just Roxanne Gay, …


…Now what? You’re probably asking yourself: What is the value of my life if I can’t even get into a single MFA program? Why did I spend all that money on a hopeless dream? How will I transform the world and influence future generations if my words can’t even connect with admissions committees? How relevant is my work if I don’t have an MFA to back up what I’m saying? How will I continue facing my boss and coworkers past April 15? No matter how delusional these questions sound, they are all valid. Only we know how much we want this degree, this opportunity, this sense of validation. We believe our work will flourish in this Midwestern city. Or that the faculty from this low-res program are the reason I exist. Or that my characters live in New York; I should, therefore, live in New York. Whatever your reasons for applying to MFA programs—and let’s hope most of them revolve around your desire to grow as a writer—it’s never good to feel like your work isn’t …

Snow and Fire

Recently I shoveled a foot of snow off my car with my cat’s litter dustpan. Well, mostly–I’m 5’3″, so when I was finished, my Kia still had a fin in the middle of its roof that I couldn’t reach. What’s funny, sort of, is that my mother had said the day before Snowmageddon hit Kentucky that I might want to pick up a snow shovel, and I said “oh, I’m sure it will melt before I need to go anywhere.” Right. So there I was 48 hours later, excavating my car with a dustpan and trying not to scratch the white car underneath the white snow. My jeans were tucked into my tennis shoes to keep the snow off my bare skin for the hours it took to get my car cleared. For that whole week, from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon, I made sure my faucets were dripping, gave Mom permission to say “I told you so,” and wrote. Though I was in serious need of human interaction by Friday, it was an invaluable week. …

Crafting a Beautiful Statement of Purpose

My own Statement of Purpose for my MFA applications was groomed better than my own hair, and it was all structured around a conversation with one of my undergrad professors. “Gillian,” my professor told me, “The SOP does not solely determine if you’re accepted to a program or not—we put far more emphasis on the writing sample and the letters of rec. The SOP is used to determine if the candidate is a jerk.” I thought about this for days. How could I write a strong SOP that told the world that I wasn’t a jerk? What did I want my SOP to stand for? (Also, what did I stand for?)

Connective Tissues

Writers are strange in that they reverberate off one another. We are all types of whales and it is influence and drama and jealousy and love and admiration that keep our worlds going round. In this way, language becomes cyclical in motion. And it’s something I haven’t given much thought to, until taking classes here at Columbia. Sure the beginning my undergraduate experience was a mess but growing through the years not only made me a better procrastinator, but a better academic and critic. Ok fine, I’m a terrible procrastinator on occasions like now but that’s not the point! Reading the western (white) cannon over and over again bored me to the point of returning back to biochemistry. But the class readings didn’t end there. It was only when I immersed myself in poetry that I finally “got it.” The “it” I’m referring to is community, is continuity, is inspiration through life and death.

Chapters, Papers, and Grading (Oh My!)

When I started thinking about writing my November blog post, it felt unreal. (And I’m not just using that adjective because I’ve been reading The Waste Land. Nope. Okay, maybe a little…) Folks, I am almost finished with my first semester at the University of Kentucky. I’m almost 25% finished with my MFA program (I think in fractions and percentages a lot, don’t know why). I’ve lived in Lexington for nearly four months, and my goodness, what a great four months it has been! I’ve had the chance to speak and work with established writers, whether they are on faculty–Gurney Norman, Manuel Gonzales, Hannah Pittard–or just visiting campus, like yesterday’s Q&A lunch with Denise Giardina. I’ve gotten to know a diverse and friendly cohort. I’ve drafted half of a novel in workshop this semester, and the more I write, the more I love the story and the characters.

Midway Through Semester 1… So Many Questions!

What does the little “a” do, and why is the big “A” always yelling? These would be my first questions, I joked frequently when asked exactly what was I hoping to learn at 50 by starting an MFA. Half way through my first semester, I have abandoned these two questions (because, between us, I already knew the answers,) but now have a million more.

Routines and Broken Things

If bad luck comes in threes, I’ll be glad to see the end of September. Between Car Scare Tuesday (what is this mystery light that’s suddenly blinking on my dash, and why will no one let me over so I can stop the car?), Internet Fail Friday (what do you mean, there are no appointments for two weeks?), and Laptop Crash Monday (why why why did I not use an external hard drive, please have mercy on all my non-backed-up drafts and pictures of getting lost in Romania), it has been an interesting week and a half. Particularly for my grad-student-sized savings account. Still, everything that does not involve me touching machinery and technology feels like it’s clicking into place. All the different compartments of life in Lexington: writing, homeworking, socializing, grading, church-ing, cooking for myself for the first time.

Nazia Jannat Introduction – Columbia University ’17

I winged my way into grad school. Yup, you heard me crystal clear. I didn’t prepare for the GRE, I took a nosedive into the process during senior year of college, my fucking submission packet fucking came in late after the fucking deadline, I only applied to 3 schools, and I definitely didn’t try for fully funded magical realms like Iowa. Instead, I poured my heart out and took a chance on the little things that made me weird. While I’m not as weird (or funny) as my role model Al Yankovic, there are still a couple of peculiarities I’m comfortable admitting.